Take two ideas and put them together to make one new idea. After all, what is a Snuggie but a mutation of a blanket and a robe?
For years now, I’ve been endearing myself in meetings with manufacturers by asking questions like: “So when will there be an awning that is delivered by drone, can be programmed to change color upon demand, calls you if someone tries to break into your house and then wraps itself around the burglar, and after 30 years can be taken down and made into a nourishing soup?”
Sometimes I get that “who told you you could land here?” look that even co-workers give me when I get all science-fictiony on them, but in a meeting with some gentlemen from Glen Raven a couple of years ago, they were taking notes. I wouldn’t put that awning too far into the future, at that.
It’s no longer enough to do one thing well. You’ve got to do everything well. In our annual Specialty Fabrics Showcase, we ask our contributors about the chief advantages of their fabrics. Years ago, the answer might have been “strength” or “flame resistance.” Now, we’re given a list of benefits like: durability, stain resistance, flame resistance, chemical resistance, economy, easy handling, antimicrobial abilities and sustainability—just for a start. And the products made from these incredible fabrics share that need for multifunctional innovation.
In the article “On the march,” NSRDEC’s Carole Winterhalter asks: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could build new, lighter-weight equipment that was stronger, antimicrobial, camouflage-printable and flame-resistant, all made from the same fiber-forming polymer?”
In the October 2017 article “The mother(s) of invention,” author Bruce Wright notes: “Even within the past five years, the industry has produced more new products that have multiple capabilities, opening up new possibilities for applications.”
We Boomers are grudgingly relinquishing our position as the biggest demographic bulge in the societal snake to the Millennial generation, which employers are constantly being advised is a different kind of workforce animal (see “What workforce crisis?”). More important, I think, is for manufacturers to figure out what kind of customers they are. I’m already thoroughly irritated with them because they indiscriminately push a button and order from Amazon instead of frequenting local small businesses (including, of course, antique stores and wineries). We could be looking at a whole new set of parameters when it comes to custom manufacturing.
Science fiction fans don’t necessarily love new technology. Read John Varley’s “Press Enter,” and you (like me) will never, ever set foot in a self-driving car. But when it comes to that 30-year awning I mentioned earlier, Millennials may require that it take itself down and march itself into the kitchen when it’s time for that nourishing soup. Market research is about to become everybody’s full-time job.